stephen overtonMillennials are provoking grocers, such as Winn-Dixie and Publix, to carry products that are produced in/near/around the Tampa Bay area.

Mike’s Pies, a 20-year-old staple in the Tampa Bay community, is an example of homegrown goods that’s been featured in supermarket Winn-Dixie. On its Winn-Dixie’s shelves for more two years, the 9-inch pies have sold well, selling at $7 to $8 each. Today, Mike’s Pies can be found in more than 500 Winn-Dixie bakeries. Sales are climbing for Mike’s, it’s now up 57 percent. The relatively small company has 64 employees who prep and bake 30,000 pies each week.

Over the last handful of years, consumers have expressed a hunger and thirst for local and regionally produced items. Grocers are making the effort to meet demands, and this is positively impacting small businesses and the local economy.

“I think what’s happening is everyone’s looking for that local brand they can associate with in the marketplace,” Mike’s Pies owner Michael Martin, told Tampa Bay.

Millennial consumers are the largest subset in the nation, and their shopping trends have changed the market, and their buying power is helping to dictate trend movement. Millennials are more inclined to buy local because they perceive it and made with better products. Millennials tend to be more trusting of these brands.

Publix Super Markets have created special branding efforts to draw attention to local products, aware that this will beckon Millennial dollars. “100% natural,” products with a name, or “made in Florida” are buzzwords

“Millennials have driven things now for the last several years,” he said. “Particularly for produce in the last few years we have made more of an effort to promote the fact that those items are grown locally when that’s the case.”

“I joke all the time that I’m really tired of the word millennial,” said Cammie Chatterton, owner of Tampa-based Bay Food Brokerage. “I’m at corporate Publix three to four days a week working on promotions, and at every meeting the word comes up.”

CDS Hot Sauce Products, which produces Tabañero Hot Sauce, has capitalized on this trend. Publix launched Tabañero in 1,300 stores this summer, coming a long way since it was founded in 2011, when it was exclusively sold in restaurants. The young population’s taste for the spicy condiment has helped to boost the CDS, which has reached a $1 billion valuation. The company is presently on track to sell 7 million bottles of hot sauce.

Grocers have developed a symbiotic relationship with local businesses than to the support of millennials, who are considered to be smarter about food and more conscientious about what goes into their mouths.